Category Archives: History

Valide Sultana Hammam

The steam bath was built in the seventeenth century, and was dedicated to the sultan’s mother.

It had six chambers, and was heated by an underfloor heating system (hypocaust).

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Fragment of the original floor & the heating system underneath it.

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Possibly a flue for hot air circulation..

Slipping Back in Time

After a whole year, finally I could pay a visit to my Grandmother. She lives up in the mountains, so it took me some time to get there. However, while sitting on the bus, marveling at the beautiful wintry, snow-covered landscape, going deeper and deeper into that old, isolated, rural world, I found myself slipping back in time. Leaving the city’s constant murmur and lights behind, slowly slithering away from the matrix of electricity and technology, I could reconnect with nature and with that indescribable, inherent sense of human condition; that pure existence.  It is so simple; the winter nights are so dark and endless. There is that silence when it snows…

Anyway, after arriving and having a huge lunch (and consequently a big nap after eating), my Granny and I began to chat away, going through old photographs. We found a photo of my late grandfather’s parents. I can’t remember even seeing them, knowing their faces. However, there is a beautiful and striking story that I keep in my mind about them. It was my grandfather who told me this story in 2010 when I took a gap year and decided to travel and spend some time with my loved ones.  (I am so grateful for having done that…and of course for having the chance to do that.)

During the summer of 2010 I had the best conversations of my life so far. I am so fortunate that I can say I asked all the questions I wanted to ask from that generation who are no longer with us. Including my grandfather. I asked him a lot about the famous revolution of 1956…how he and his troop dealt with the traumas. However, I never asked him about the World War since he was a child back then, but I asked him about the beautiful Hanukkah menorah standing in the window..how on earth we have one?!

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He told me that when he was a child his parents had been working in Germany. They were away for a good few years, not knowing when they would be able to return. That was the only way of keeping the family going financially. How heartbreaking it must have been for my great-grandma to leave her child behind…Can’t even think of it. She entrusted my grandfather to her Jewish neighbors who were raising him up during those years. However, my great-grandma sewed a fabric ‘necklace’ or a tag that my grandfather could wear and could not take off. The little tag contained his name, date of birth and his parents’ names. Just in case, if anything happens. And something did happen. The Second World War broke out. My great-grandparents stuck in Germany, my grandfather living under the wings of a Jewish mother in Hungary, raising him along with her two daughters as if he was her own.

My grandfather had always been a strong man. I cannot remember having seen him crying at all. He lived through wars, witnessed how his family lost everything from one day to another, how foreign nations occupied his country…but when he began to tell me about the day when the nazis came to take them, he broke down in tears. He told me that he also had to wear the yellow star for some time, and nobody thought in the beginning that it would go any further than being ‘marked’. They lived in a small village that had never been really disturbed by the storms of history ever. But the nazis did come and caused major disturbance. He said they arrived on a huge van and forced the Jewish family in the back of the car. When the mother asked one of the soldiers to give her some time to pack some of their belongings up, she was laughed at the face, then got beaten up. They had to leave as they were..my grandfather was already jostled in with them in the back of the truck when his stepmother cried out that at least let him go since he is not even Jewish, making references to my grandfather’s ‘necklace’. They checked his tag if she was saying the truth and made some quick investigation with the mayor of the village. So the nazis let him go, then they left straight, taking away the family. He never saw them or heard from them ever again.

My grandfather found himself standing alone in the yard of the Jewish family’s house, having nowhere to go. Within a few hours’ time, ‘vultures’ appeared and sacked the house. One of these vultures felt an enormous pity when found my grandfather crying hysterically so he gave him the menorah to calm him down and also a job. Since he had nobody, and nobody was sure if his parents would ever return from Germany. He was only 5 years old when he started working on the fields.

Fortunately, withing a few months’ time his parents returned. Which was quite a miracle..I have no idea how they were able to get back, but they did return and reunite.

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My great-grand parents in the 1930s on their wedding day.

I always feel so moved by that story, and when thinking about it, I always send my gratitude to that Jewish mother who saved my grandfather, wherever she may be. I don’t know her name, I don’t know her face, yet she plays such in important role in my life. So does my great-grandmother. Looking at her face..now that I found this photograph, I also send my gratitude to her. It is a strange feeling to see her figure appearing in this old piece of paper, knowing that we are deeply connected, sharing the same genes, only a few decades separate us….yet I could never touch her, I could never see her dry, papery like hands, but she is a part of my life and she is a part of ‘me’. I am made of her. Yet, she is so far and so close.

‘I am the sum total of my ancestors, I carry their DNA. We are the representatives of a long line of people and we carried them around either with. This long line of people that goes back to the beginning of time. And when we meet – they meet other lines of people, and we say bring together the lines of me.’ 

Delight in Disorder — The Art of Dress

While working on one of my projects during exam time I came across with a very interesting book by Jane Ashelford; The Art of Dress: Clothes Through History, 1500 – 1914. I was so happy to  have a book on loan that actually has some pictures in it!! After weeks of constant reading and writing, it was a pure bliss to my eyes….

I was writing about fashion, becoming a popular motif in seventeenth century literature, therefore, it was actually quite essential to put my hands on a book with images.=) When I started exploring the topic of my choice, I knew it straight that sooner or later I would share some details and images of my research with you. I also started a Pinterest board to collect some remarkable pieces. (http://pinterest.com/noemi9/17th-century-fashion/)

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I have chosen the seventeenth century because I think it was a turning point in the history of fashion. That was the first time when common people started dressing in a more pompous way, blurring the sharp edges between classes.  After the turmoil and the height of strict Puritan values of the antecedent decades, the age of the Restoration was a breath of fresh air. With the re-opening of the theaters across all England, people could finally begin to enjoy earthly delights again without any guilt.

Not to mention that the country was just after recovering from an outbreak of plague, which greatly affected both poor and rich for many years. ‘People wore rags since they were afraid of contracting plague through having new clothes. Once the plague was over, people started to dress lavishly’ (Ashelford) After the period of shortage the desire for new attires was stronger than ever. People were missing and longing for the Tudor pomp, and this time not only the aristocracy wanted to be adorned with sumptuous garments, but common people as well.  Besides, clothing became a business, and not only did it become a means of money making, but it also became a favoured subject of art as well.

Ahh poetry…

In my project I decided to discuss this eventful era through analysing a poem. I was quite hesitant, not knowing which poem to go with..then my choice fell on Robert Herrick’s Delight in Disorder… a beautiful sonnet in which Herrick gives an abundant account on the grandiosity of imperfection that manifests in the carelessly worn pieces.

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness :
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction :
An erring lace which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher :
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly :
winning wave (deserving note)
In the tempestuous petticoat :
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility :
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.

Another aspect that also makes these lines rather relevant in the seventeenth century is the popular motif of the time appearing in the sonnet. The ‘calculated tidiness’ of which the French were so fond of, found its way into poems and paintings as well. Ben Jonson wrote in his poem, the SongRobes loosely flowing, hair is free; Such sweet neglect more taketh me’. Or Isaac Oliver’s painting of the poet Edward Herbert, depicting him with an unbuttoned shirt also is in line with the popular custom of the era.

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And finally here are some more paintings and pieces from the seventeenth century:

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Anne of Denmark

Collar made in Italy

Collar made in seventeenth century Italy

A sketch by Inigo Jones, a famous fashion designer of his time.

A sketch by Inigo Jones, a famous fashion designer of his time.
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‘Bonus Track’

And some additional images and a quotation from the book The Art of Dress which are not related to the seventeenth century, but definitely deserve some attention. =)

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Pretty feminine

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My favourite piece…

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The virgin Queen

Shoe shopping - never goes out of fashion...

Shoe shopping – never goes out of fashion…

‘When the photographer Cecil Beaton wrote an account of fashion and the decorative arts in the first half of this century he felt he had to defend himself against the charge of being a “propagandist of frivolity”, for the author of such a work will “certainly discover that, both in England and America, fashion is viewed with a jaundiced eye, feminine enthusiasm nothwithstanding”. At the time of writing, 1954, Beaton thought that it was “France alone” who had “laboured to elevate both fashion and les arts mineurs to a degree of perfection comparable with the purity of its literature and painting”.’

Thank you for your time, hope you enjoyed reading my article.

Love and light,

Noémi 

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1956. október 23.